Most airsoft snipers probably go to games with an idea in their head for how they’re going to play, the perfect shots they’re going to get, and having that ghillie working in ideal conditions so that nobody sees them. And they’ll probably film it to show everyone afterwards how great they are. However, games rarely go the way you plan them. In this article, I’ll briefly go over how I approach my setups, kit, camouflage and pre game mindset.
As usual, this one was sparked by a couple of questions last week about “what range do you set your scope up for?”, and “at what range should your ghillie work?”. Although there’s an optimal situation for all things, I plan for the worst case scenarios, because if I can operate under those conditions, everything else is easy. These include;
- Rig setups – the worst case (generally) is being in a prone firing position. So, lie down and work out how you can access things when you’re flat to the floor. Also, and it’s something missed with the trend for micro VX rigs – can you drag yourself across the floor if you needed to, and without filling all your pouches full of mud? It’s also worth looking at running comms on your back in case that mud turns to puddles, and you’ve got to get wet.
- Rifle setups – can you hit your target?
- Weather conditions – are you able to work in any weather? Warm sniper, dry sniper article covers that. If you’re uncomfortable, you’re not operating at your best.
- Can you avoid detection at 100m as well as 1m? You can’t choose where the enemy is, and you can’t always control it without compromising yourself. If they’re inside MED, do you have a way to eliminate them?
- Is your rifle reliable? Too often I see guys who’ve slapped loads of expensive upgrades in a gun to the point that there’s something that doesn’t quite work as planned every time. Misfeeds, sticky trigger sears, mag release catch not always working. One that shoots every time (like a stock one) is worth far more in the field than one that cost £500 more, has 20m extra range, but jams up when you need it most.
- Can you perform the role on your own? This has always been my strongest argument against sniper/spotter teams – if one is gone, the other only has half the capability. Sadly, there comes a time when your buddy will get hit out.
- Can you deal with surprises?
Ideally before you buy any solutions, and assuming that like most airsofters you bought the gun first. put the gun on the floor and lie down as if it was a firing position. Now think about where you could carry a spare mag that you can access while resting on your elbows, but without making any excess movement. Everything you do on the field has to be assumed to be under non-ideal conditions. Like the enemy looking in your direction, and you need to draw a pistol slowly and smoothly in case they haven’t seen you, but have it ready, in case they have seen you and you’re about to be in a whole heap of shit.
The other point above is capability, and the sniper/spotter setup. If the spotter is hit, the sniper loses that close protection they’ve become accustomed to, and if the sniper is hit the spotter is reduced to an aeg role. In terms of what to take into a game, you could carry as much kit as you wanted to really. Bolt action sniper rifle with mags, DMR backup with mags, an Uzi for close quarters plus mags, a grenade launcher plus grenades, smokes, frags, NVG’s in case you go into any darkened buildings, a pistol, a spare pistol, climbing equipment, and a couple of drones. But the more you carry, the more it slows you down, the more there is that can break or fail. Perhaps not so much “worst case”, but I trim my gear down to the absolute basics.
My job in a game is to be able to sneak around and deliver a single, accurate bb into a player without being detected. I run a spring rifle to deliver that bb, and run camouflage that allows me to stay hidden. On occasion, I might add a radio if I need to, or a pistol to cover me when I make a mistake. No semi or full auto capability; trading plastic is for the AEG users and I have to be more precise than that. No loud bangs, no “trolls hate my minigun” sort of shit, no expensive gadgets, no emergency kit. I don’t even carry a first aid kit in game. Some players look at things and think “yeah, this’ll work really well in situation x” without thinking about whether that situation will come up, or what the negatives are the rest of the time. First example that springs to mind is maybe the grenade launcher – yes, it’d be great if you had to go into a building, but what if you don’t? How are you going to stay manoeuvrable during the 95% of the game you’re not in that building? Are you then making a mistake by trying to go into that building just because you want to use your grenade launcher?
I’ve covered rifle range setups in a few blogs before, most recently in what should my airsoft sniper rifle be capable of?. Although I enjoy the challenge of building rifles capable of more, I’d be happy to go to any site with a 1j rifle that could hit 60m and still be able to do what I need to do. The reality, to shatter the assumption that sniping is about long range shooting, is that most kills come within the 30-60m distance, regardless of the shit spouted by snipers at your local about landing 150m headshots every time. Sniping is sneaky ninja play, hit and run tactics from cover, relying on stealth and movement to avoid being detected. Because of bb flight time, you’ll be far more efficient up close where you can hit cleanly, quickly and more accurately. Remember, you don’t always have the luxury of second chances.
In terms of setting the scope up, make sure that the vertical line is set perfectly down your bb flight path. Set your scope up by having the rifle on a flat, stable surface or bipod/tripod. And try to avoid shooting across open fields if you can, because the wind across open spaces will affect the flight path. In the woods is a better option. The horizontal crosshair matters much less because your bb will change height along its flight path, and drop off. Pick a mid-point relative to your rifle’s range, but bear in mind that you have to adjust the height depending on range anyway, so having it to a specific distance is always going to be just a guide anyway. This is why range time is important in getting to know your rifle, and how to hit targets so that it becomes second nature in the field.
Avoiding detection at all ranges
So, as we’ve seen on social media, most snipers will only test their suits at camera ranges (up to 5m), or build at their kitchen table. This is where it looks great up close, or if you’re trying to sell some artificial leaves or leaf suits to people, but we rarely engage at point-blank distance. If we’re doing it well, we’re sitting at 50 metres and this is where your small patterns like Realtree, or blended patterns like ATACS FG, just blob into one solid outline. You need to be able to break that outline up at ranges so that that doesn’t happen, so test your suit at all ranges outdoors and keep adjusting it until it works.
It might sound boring, spending days outdoors making sure your suit is right, but you get out what you put in and if it means you can evade detection, it’s worth it. This is why modifying BDU’s remains by far the best ghillie base for airsoft, because you can use spray paints to keep adjusting the base pattern. Le Covert Sartorialist discussed this at length during one of our live shows which you can see here, and stated that detection under 8 metres is inevitable, because if the enemy don’t see you up close it’s because they have a sight deficiency. However, I want to challenge that and I’ll go back to that worst case scenario – I’ve had people at less than one metre many times, even having a few pairs of boots less than six inches from my face while I hid under a fallen tree (bloody spider nest too, but needs must) while being hunted, and it is possible to satisfy both 1m and 100m evasion. At short distances, it’s all about micro patterns and the right shapes and textures, at longer ranges you need a macro pattern to appear that will break up your human shape, and colours that blend into the environment otherwise you’re an easy spot in a lot of places.
Although we can argue that we should never be seen at less than 20 metres and therefore it doesn’t matter, we know that it can happen so why not build a suit for all eventualities? I had a conversation with an ex-soldier once about how to make a suit that was IRR compliant in the event of night games. A passing player asked why, when all skirmishes at that site were during the day. Put simply, I didn’t need it but why not take it into consideration anyway?
Another thing to note is excessive camouflage on the face and around the eyes – worst case, it’s windy and all that stuff blows into your eyes and obstructs your field of view. Too much on the gun might cause it to jam or affect some of the functions.
I don’t sit and plan games out in my head before they start. I don’t dream of epic killstreaks. I don’t have any definite game plan. Usually before the game I’m just chugging energy drinks, recovering from hangovers, and having a good look at enemy players just to get familiar with them. As a sniper, you have to be able to react to what’s happening during the game, which is dictated by a hundred other players running riot. There’s no “I’ll go to my favourite position at X just to bag some kills” because that isn’t always the best use of your time, especially if you’re sitting around waiting for the action to come to you. Look at where the action is, look at what you can do to help your team, or basically just mess the enemy team about, and make your decisions as you go. Plans in advance are too rigid, and you find yourself drawn to carrying them out even if it’s a bad idea.
Of course, we always hope for the best. You just can’t rely on that…